If Monday October 19th, 1981 was Blue Monday, then September 29th, 2004 was Black Wednesday.
The latter date marks the final time the Montreal Expos took a Major League Baseball field under that name. It marked the last time Montreal held a regular season professional baseball game.
It was the final time Montrealers cheered (and cried) for Nos Amours. For several years, many believed that baseball would never be back, that Montreal was not a viable market, and that the fans in Montreal did not even deserve a second chance considering the massive drops in attendance over the final few seasons of the team's existence.
Ten years later, the mindset surrounding the return of baseball toMontreal has changed significantly. Fan support (albeit mostly on social media) has risen significantly. Influential and well-known reporters around Canada - and more importantly, south of the border - have championed the movement to move a team back to Montreal. Groups have been formed to raise awareness in the fight to get the team back (notably through the Montreal Baseball Project). Most importantly, though, was the incredible showing by Montreal's fans when the Blue Jays and Mets played an exhibition game at the Big O last summer.
Baseball fever is alive and well in Montreal, and the longing for baseball has never been as palpable as it is right now. Many wonder about the viability of a new franchise in Quebec - undoubtedly, many financial and logistical issues need to be dealt with in order to facilitate a return to Montreal, but it's important to keep in mind that this isn't a small town trying to achieve a big dream. Montreal has not only already proven very capable of housing a Major League franchise, it's also a bustling metropolitan city seemingly on the rise after several years of political tension and uncertainty.
There are only a few pieces missing to complete this puzzle, but for now there are still plenty of reasons justifying the full-time return of baseball to Montreal.
15 Past Successes
14 The Toronto Blue Jays
13 "Terrace Life"
12 A New Stadium
11 The Brand
10 The Demise of Tampa Bay Rays
Contrary to what many think, Montrealers are not "happy" that the Rays are proving to be unsustainable in the Sunshine State. As a city that has already gone through relocation, you'd be hard pressed to find many Montrealers who are openly happy that they might get a team back at the expense of another city. Having lived through the loss of the Expos, they know it was not a fun experience, and they don't not wish the same pain on any other sports fan.
9 The Growth of Non-Traditional Sport in Canada
This might be a bit of a reach as a reason for the return of baseball to Montreal, but it's worth a mention, at the very least.
For decades, Canada has been viewed as one thing only: a hockey country. Was it (and is it still) warranted? Of course it is. Canada breathes, eats, and sleeps hockey. Recently, though, numbers have shown massive participation increases in "non-traditional" Canadian sports, specifically soccer and basketball. While the increased participation hasn't made much of a difference on the pitch, the meteoric rise of Canadian basketball cannot be ignored. The last two first overall picks in the NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, are both Canadian, and many others have begun to establish themselves as budding NBA stars. The rise of Canadian basketball can be, at least somewhat, related back to the relatively successful Vince Carter years of the Toronto Raptors - and it wouldn't be surprising to see a new wave come through Ontario thanks to the current popularity of the Toronto Raptors.
8 Denis Coderre
7 The Rise of Montreal as a Pro-Team City
When the Montreal Expos left in 2004, the overall Montreal sports landscape was one of the worst in North America. The hallowed Montreal Canadiens were coming off a sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs - this was one of the few bright spots of a lengthy period of futility for the Habs. The Montreal Alouettes were consistently good, but were still practically in the infancy of their existence and were barely considered a professional sports team (similar to the rest of the Canadian Football League). The Major League Soccer version of the Montreal Impact only came to be a few years ago, so suffice to say, there wasn't much going on (or going right) for Montreal based sports teams.
Today, the Canadiens are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, the Alouettes are slowly but surely coming around after a rough start to "Life After Anthony (Calvillo)," and while the Impact were downright awful this season, they are at least a legitimate professional soccer team (compared to when they we're a glorified minor league entity). Some believe the addition of a baseball team would diminish the value of the Impact and Alouettes (as no one is touching the Canadiens), but the flipside of the argument is just as legitimate - how great would it be to go to a baseball game and then head over to Molson Stadium for some football, or perhaps take in a soccer game before heading to the Expos' new stadium?
6 6. Bud Selig's Retirement
5 The Exhibition Games' Success
When Evenko announced that the city of Montreal would be hosting back-to-back exhibition games at the Big O, many assumed this way Major League Baseball's way of throwing Montreal a bone, a congratulatory gesture of sorts to Expos Nation, signed "good job so far, here's a taste."
4 Montreal's Love of Baseball
3 Fan Support
This point is not referring to the fan support that would (hopefully) accompany the return of the team. It's referring to the fan-base that is as strong as it has even been, despite the fact that there is no team to support (for now). It's hard to quantify a "buzz" in the city, but social media gives a good indication of the kind of support the Expos still have. The team's "official" Facebook page currently has over 172,000 likes, while the Twitter account is currently followed by close to 20,000 people. While these numbers don't come close to the followings of current Major League teams, it's still impressive for a team that is currently nothing more than a pipedream.
2 Build It and Sponsors Will Come
This point coincides with the number one reason why the Expos should be brought back to Montreal - we'll kill the drama and admit that both have to do with money. It's a bit sad that the business of sport will always mean that money is the final and ultimate end-game, but we takes the pros with cons.
1 Money, Money, Money
Again, this point builds off the last point, but from a different angle. While sponsorship dollars will be key, at the end of the day there are three dollar figures that will really make or break the return of baseball to Montreal.
The first is the relocation fee that Major League Baseball would post in the event that the league decides to move a franchise. This number would probably be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and would have to come out of the pocket of an owner with deep pockets. There's no doubt there are people in Montreal who can afford to write that cheque, or at least split the tab within a group of owners.
The second is the cost of a new stadium. That will also cost a pretty penny, and would most likely cost taxpayer money. This might be where Denis Coderre's influence factors into the equation, although it would probably involve higher levels of government as well.
The final - and perhaps most important number - is the amount of gate revenue (or expected revenue) generated by the team in the first season of its return - or the first few seasons, if we're looking a bit farther down the road. Major League Baseball won't lift a finger if they aren't 100% assured of a full (or very close to full) stadium.
Based on the push to get the team back over the past half-decade, I don't think Montrealers will have any problem meeting those demands.
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